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« This Week's Acquisitions | Main | Irritated exclamation, prompted by a combination of student drafts and the accidental erasure of a post on Victorian historical fiction »

February 19, 2005



You are very correct about "map", and it's especially prevalent in the PoCo world. Even Mr Imagined Geography himself, Edward Said, neatly called this "a fuzzy tic inherited from Fredric Jameson."

My suggestion:
"Otherness" -- if nothing else, it's time to give "alterity" a whirl.


Little Professor, I applaud all your nominees as well as Rob's nomination of "otherness," although I'm not convinced that "alterity" is a better candidate.

My nomination goes to "intervention." Until recently, the last time I had heard the word "intervention" used was at a history conference at Oxford in 1982. (The word "comrade" was also used extensively.) What the speakers obviously meant was some form of the noun or verb "question." And I think I'll throw in "contested" just for fun.


Funny that "subversive" usually means "not as hopelessly retrograde as you might think".


It's not a word, really--or even critical--but I am so very sick and tired of "It's the (blank), stupid."


Thank you for this list! I nominate "situate" as an addition to it.


An interview story:

Interviewer: Could you tell us what kind of intervention your project is making?

Me: Uh...uh...Intervention?

Interviwer: Wait, I've been at this conference too long.

Me: How about I describe the "contribution" I think my project makes?

Interviewer and the rest of search committee laughs. Interview goes splendidly. I proceed to next round of campus visits.


Often seen alongside "contested": "negotiated."

Also: "liminal" (or "liminality") but I suspect it just seems like I see it more frequently than I actually do. Same with "performative."


I agree that the word is overused, but it's a direct consequence of the unconscious nature of literary creation that a work can be subversive without it being recognized by the audience (and still be artful).

Legal Alien

How about "complicates"? For example, "Rushdie's text complicates theories of hybridity."


Legal Eagle's comment reminds me of the absolutely indispensable chiasmus: not only does Rushdie's text complicate theories of hybridity, it hybridizes theories of complexity.

Try it sometime.


The only true subversive literature is Children's.

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary etc.

Jim Flannery

Problematic, adj. Tending to support a position I disagree with.

Ray Davis

To quote myself: "You know that warm feeling you get from someone agreeing with you? Or when you feel clever for working something out? Well, that's not actually called subversion.

"In fact, I'd say that the only context in which it makes sense for a comfortable guy to apply the word 'subversive' to anything is when he's trying to have it banned."

I like Annam's formula even better, though -- "subversive" in the sense of "not troubling my own worldview."


I'm not really into giving words a vacation. I say, use all of them but only when you really need to.




I'm sympathetic to some of these words, but they're just so 90s: "irruption," "interstices," and "imbricated." "Densely imbricated" is definitely out. Ditto "problematize." I'm torn about "occlude."

But let's keep "situate;" it's still on the upswing!


Definitely "problematic," also "evocative" or "evoke."


Thank your for foregrounding these horrible examples of university-speak. You sure are constructing some knowledge!

Prof MC

I don't mind "problematic"--"problematize," on the other hand... And let's throw in "decentering" while we're at it. Oh. OH. And "PRAXIS"!


One prof. I knew would always describe anything he liked or wanted to comment on as "interesting." Drove me nuts--I always thought it was a way of avoiding actually addressing the topic and stating why it was interesting, and reaching a judgment about it.


"Problematise" is extremely annoying. How about "limns"?


torture is not an american value.
you cannot make war on an abstract noun.

Mike S

Construct (as noun)
Hegemony (leave it for poly sci)

This is a great thread, by the way. But I made the mistake of reading it while I'm writing a paper, and now I'm lamenting my overuse of "subvert."


I've heard "trope" repeated to death, although that was only at my undergrad university, so I don't know if it's part of a wider trend.

"Construct" as either a noun (as mentioned above) or a verb is another good candidate.

Douglas Cleary

Intervention is a good verb in recovery circles...Love this blog, since I grew up in university town the son of a professor of communications...dc

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